Chicago Public Library Launches 2020 Summer Learning Challenge

Annual award-winning program adds online programs in response to COVID-19 restrictions

Chicago Public Library (CPL) has officially launched their 2020 summer programs for kids and families in library branches across Chicago and online. CPL summer programs offer ways for young folks to keep learning and staying engaged all summer long. This year’s Summer Challenge is in partnership with My Chi, My Future, in working to keep Chicago’s students engaged and educated during the summer. The Library’s Summer Learning Challenge and Teen Summer Challenge, which run through August 16, are made possible by philanthropic support through the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

Through the 2020 Summer Learning Challenge, youth ages 0-13 will be “Building Stories” and learning more about the distinctive architecture and neighborhoods of Chicago. Teens will “Sound Off,” by using their voices to get involved in activism and empowerment through the Teen Summer Challenge for youth ages 13-18.  Children can explore their homes, their neighborhoods, their city and its architecture through science exploration, hands-on learning and the arts. Kids can to “Build Stories” by learning about architecture and design using science, math and engineering skills.

This year’s Teen Summer Challenge for youth ages 13-18, themed “Sound Off,” encourages teens to use their voices to get involved in activism and empowerment. Participating teens will receive a Pick 4 Card of activities to participate in, including reading about the history of advocacy or creating their own stories, poems, or playlists. The Pick 4 Board allows further connection points for every teen, from music and memes to reading and art. “Sound Off” will focus on programs virtually that connect teens to the intersection of music, social justice and activism, empowering teens to create and change the world around them. Materials for the Teen Summer Challenge and for the “That’s A Rap” challenge for writers, poets, rappers and singers, can be found at

“Although this summer will look different than ones in the past, the need for children to continue to learn and develop during the summer months hasn’t changed,” said CPL Commissioner Andrea Telli. “You can build stories and continue reading whether you’re at home or at your library.”

This year’s program will feature significantly expanded digital offerings, including a combination of online programming and increased digital content for children, teens and families. CPL’s popular “Live From the Library” story time program for developing and beginning readers, featuring librarians, authors and local celebrities, will be offered on the Library’s Facebook page Monday-Friday at 10 am. Prominent middle-grade authors will read a chapter from their books and offer writing tips and prompts to school age children once a week through #FirstChapterFriday. This program will kick off on July 17th with author and actor Henry Winkler.  Teens will explore themes in young adult literature with significant YA authors through weekly “Speak On It” moderated discussions on Wednesday afternoons.

This summer, Chicago Public Library will also offer a series of STEAM challenges developed by the Museum of Science and Industry, artistic connections from the Art Institute of Chicago, puzzles from the David L. Hoyt Educational Foundation, nutrition and exercise content from the Lurie Children’s Hospital and Chicago Department of Public Health.

CPL is not currently holding large in-person public programs, in coordination with guidance given by the Chicago Department of Public Health as Chicago enters Phase IV of careful reopening. However, branches remain open to circulate material and provide essential digital and physical resources to Chicagoans. Children and families are still encouraged to visit their local branch this summer to register for the program, check out materials, and explore other socially-distant offerings, including take-home craft kits. They can and should continue to use their librarians as a check-in point and resource throughout the program. Children can also sign up at, where they will find digital programs and fun activities.

CPL’s summer programs focus on mitigating summer learning loss, which is especially important this year as students face a longer period of time without in-person instruction. Research indicates that youth can lose up to three months of math and science learning during a typical summer if they do not remain engaged in learning and analysis. A recent analysis by Chapin Hall at University of Chicago showed that participants in the Library's Summer Learning Challenge on average demonstrated 15 percent greater reading gains and 20 percent great math gains when compared to their peers who did not participate in the program.

The Library’s summer program serves as an important element of the new citywide initiative My Chi My Future, which aims to connect young person in Chicago to our variety of rich, engaging, safe, and youth-centered out-of-school experiences that empower them to discover and cultivate their talents, passions, skills, and identities. My Chi, My Future is designed to help young folks develop physically, mentally, and emotionally amongst their peers, as well as build relationships and networks with mentors and caring adults, helping lay the groundwork to college, careers, trades, entrepreneurship, and life-long learning.

The 2020 Summer Learning Challenge is made possible by KPMG; Exelon; the Helen M. Harrison Foundation; Wintrust; 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project; Boeing; the Walter E. Heller Foundation; the James and Madeleine McMullan Family Foundation; Northern Trust; Peoples Gas Community Fund; Cubs Charities Community Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund; Dr. Scholl Foundation; Macy's, Inc.; Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation; Evergreen Real Estate LLC; and other generous donors to the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

The 2020 Teen Summer Challenge is made possible by The James Walt Foundation; Allstate; BMO Harris Bank; the James and Madeleine McMullan Family Foundation; Comcast; the Oppenheimer Family Foundation; the Best Buy Foundation; and other generous donors to the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

About Chicago Public Library 

Since 1873, Chicago Public Library has encouraged lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment and knowledge through innovative services and programs, as well as cutting-edge technology. Through its 81 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits and programs for children, teens and adults. For more information, please call (312) 747-4050 or visit To follow CPL on social media, visit us on Twitter (@chipublib), Instagram (@chicagopubliclibrary) or Facebook (Chicago Public Library).